Why is it impossible to rig elections in the United States?

Clay Smith is the first to cast his ballot in the U.S. presidential election at midnight in tiny Dixville Notch, New Hampshire, November 8, 2016.

Clay Smith is the first to cast his ballot in the U.S. presidential election at midnight in tiny Dixville Notch, New Hampshire, November 8, 2016.

Reuters
Political analyst Georgy Bovt explains why Russians who claim the U.S. elections are undemocratic and open to abuse are mistaken, and analyzes the role of the Electoral College's political integrity and Trump's challenge to the establishment.

"And they call this mud-slinging democracy?" you could hear from different people about the upcoming election in America. "And they think they can teach the rest of the world about something! They do not even elect the president by direct vote, but by some electors."

On the whole, as far as "cleanness" is concerned, elections pass smoothly and without scandals only in dictatorships.

‘Trump's uprising’

This campaign seems dirtier than ever. Donald Trump largely owes it to WikiLeaks that he has narrowed the gap against Hillary Clinton to a minimum on the eve of voting.

If the media wanted to unleash several controversies related to the financing of the Clinton couple's charitable foundation, when she was secretary of state (a visible conflict of interest) or correspondence between functionaries of the Democratic Party (from a hacked server), or what the former secretary of state kept on her private e-mail server in reality, it could have buried her campaign a long time ago.

But almost all the media, themselves being part of the establishment, have stood by Clinton's side. Of the 185 daily U.S. newspapers of any significance, Trump has been supported by only five, and by none of the 10 leading political weeklies.

Trump is a challenge to the establishment. A challenge from the deep America of rednecks, those who are sick of all these well-fed individuals who manage to twist all sorts of rules so that they invariably win. Also winning are those "professional dependents" who have lived on welfare for generations, but who are constantly fed by this well-fed establishment, because these people are a significant part of their electoral base.

Political integrity

Initially, the U.S. founding fathers designed the electoral system based on the fact that man is weak and flawed, and the "crowd" is exposed to temptations, which the system is better to be protected from.

American democracy – which, as much as it disgusts many, has led the country to prosperity – would not work if the society does not respect certain norms of decency and civil business behavior per se. The electoral college, among others, was conceived as a safety valve – to prevent the majority from choosing a populist who will bury the system. Many people do not understand how great is the role of "political integrity," which is not formally regulated by law, in this institution. After all, there are no laws either at the federal or state level that oblige the electors to vote for the winner.

The first thing that suggests itself is that they can be "given money," and they will vote "as they are told." But it just does not work this way. You cannot give a command to "state employees" to help a candidate with ballot-stuffing. No-one will even think about it.

Everywhere there is an element of "civil integrity," without which the system would not work, with everyone doing nothing but rigging elections and coming up with new, more stringent forms of control. In any case this does not work if the society has no predominant focus on integrity in this matter.

‘All politicians lie’

"Trump's uprising" against the "Washington establishment" is taking place under the slogan "All politicians lie!" In today's America, only 4-5 percent of the citizens believe that politicians "mostly" keep their campaign promises.

Political scientists have calculated (in particular, Francois Petry and Benoit Collette in Measuring how Political Parties Keep Their Promises) the "average percentage" of the promises that U.S. presidents keep based on the analysis of the last 50 years of campaigns. It turned out to be 67 percent.

Obama in one degree or another has fulfilled 70 percent of about 500 promises. The Republicans, who gained a majority in both houses of Congress in 2010, have since fulfilled 68 percent of what they promised in their campaigns.

The percentage of the promises kept by the authorities in other democracies is similar. It is 82.5 percent in the U.K., and 70 percent in Greece and 61 percent in the Netherlands, with the average percentage for Western countries being 69.2. That is, they lie "only" 30.8 percent of the time. But the elections are still considered to be dirty.

But there are some who speak only the truth and appear in white clothes before the nation. Or are we just afraid to admit that we do not always believe them? And are we afraid more of the "dirt" of democracy than ourselves in our freedom to choose?

P.S. Now if I can allow myself to make a forecast ... This year, everything will be decided in three states – Florida, Pennsylvania and North Carolina. If Trump loses two out of three, he will lose all of them (in the polls, he is so far noticeably behind in two out of three). If he wins in these three plus Ohio, then he is most likely to win.

First published in Russian by Gazeta.ru

The opinion of the writer may not necessarily reflect the position of RBTH or its staff.

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